saavedra77: Nero playing lyre while Rome burns ... (nero)
[personal profile] saavedra77
I keep thinking about how this week's terrorist assaults on Mumbai seemed to sum up and build upon the global jihadist movement's grievances, targets, and methods. Real care seems to have been taken to hit all of the movement's "Great Satans", to inflict spectacular violence in new ways, and attract more prolonged international attention: The terrorists sought out Americans and Brits, perceived by Islamists as the main perpetrators of "wars against Islam" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Jews, who (irrespective of nationality) served as scapegoats for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The jihadis' rhetoric appealed to subcontinental Muslims' primary complaints against New Delhi: the conflict over Kashmir and the country's history of Hindu nationalist violence. On a more macro level, the elaborate, coordinated assaults on India's financial and entertainment captial struck at the heart of that country's rising aspirations, not to mention one of the focal points of Western influence in the region. All of the movement's major international and subcontinental grievances were thus invoked: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party, etc.

Tactically, the Mumbai gunmen chose a distinctive path to martyrdom, eschewing bomb vests, truck bombs, or crashing jets for suicide-by-cop (as one of the linked articles above points out, the closest parallel would be Jaish-e-Mohammed's 2001 assault on the Indian Parliament). Perhaps they just wanted to go out guns blazing, but given the level of foresight demonstrated throughout the operation, and the more widespread and militaristic nature of the assault, I suspect that the perpetrators (whoever they were) actively sought prolonged firefights and the days of intensive coverage this would attract from content-hungry 24-hour news outlets. By drawing the incident out over days instead of just minutes or hours, they forced their way into more living rooms and airport lounges, more conversations, more imaginations. They ensured that Mumbai will now be mentioned alongside New York, Washington, Bali, London, Madrid among the past decade's major terrorist attacks.

If there was a more covert, conspiratorial motive, here, something beyond striking a blow at the movement's established enemies' list, I think that it was likely provocation--an effort to push India's Hindu majority into "showing their true colors" and behaving just like jihadi rhetoric says they will. Militant Islamists in the tradition of Qutb, Maududi, and bin Laden express an uncompromising, apocalyptic worldview, one that feeds and is fed by similar attitudes on the part of their adversaries. The Mumbai gunmen claimed to be striking back against Hindu nationalist lynch mobs, and no doubt they were; but they may also have been inviting the Hindu nationalists to to "bring it on," to rule out any improvement in relations between Indian Muslims and Hindus or between the nations of India and Pakistan, and head off any moves that might smack of compromise over cherished sore points like the conflict in Kashmir.

Date: 2008-11-30 09:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If it turns out to have been supported by the Pakistan govt I don't see how the Indian govt can do nothing. I don't expect outright war though.

From what I've read it seemed that they were inspired by some of the things the Chechens did (attacking police, taking large numbers of hostages, shooting it out instead of just blowing themselves up).

BTW have you read V.S. Naipaul's nonfiction books on India? Very good and fascinating in explaining how caste work out in practice and how the different groups (mostly) get along.

Date: 2008-11-30 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I've been following the reports about the militants arriving by sea from Karachi, suggestions that they had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed & Kashmir, etc. I'm very (morbidly) curious to see where this investigation goes.

And, no, the only Naipaul I've read is The Mimic Men (and a long while ago, at that). Is there a nonfiction book you'd particularly recommend, as a starting-point?

Date: 2008-12-01 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I think his nonfiction is much better than his fiction.

"An Area of Darkness" is about his first trip to India in the 60's. "India: A Million Mutinies Now" is about his return to India in the late 80's. I'd recommend them both.

He also travelled to Iran and Pakistan and wrote about that in "Among the Believers" and "Beyond Belief".


saavedra77: Back to the byte mines ... (Default)
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